‘Rear Window’ with Hooman Majd – Vol. IX
“… we need to get to the point where we realize we have to save our planet and we have to learn how to live together without killing each other, beating each other up, robbing each other, and taking advantage of each other … But I’m not sure that humans will get there. We may destroy ourselves before that.”
Introduction by Glenn O’Brien
Short-Film by Daniel McLennan
Photograph by Ken Browar for Paradigm Magazine
I met Hooman Majd in 1996, I believe. It was Platonic love at first sight. I think we became friends during the first fifteen minutes, and sort of best friends in about a week.
Hooman was running Chris Blackwell’s Island Records which I considered the very best record company in the world. I had known Chris for some years and I considered him to be a pillar of our culture. We had talked about me working for Island some years before but for some reason or another it never happened. But then I resigned as Creative Director of Barneys New York, and a mutual friend suggested I might be a good member of the team. So I was asked to go meet one Hooman Majd. I had no idea who this fellow with an unusual name might be, but I went up to visit him.
There was this handsome, dapper, extremely courteous man in a corner office of the Worldwide Plaza building. We sat there for hours, talking about music and other things, smoking cigarettes and drinking mineral water from the refrigerator next to his desk. Even then I think this was forbidden, but Hooman wasn’t concerned with trivialities. He had all sorts of methods of disguising the smoke and, besides, he didn’t care. We had fun talking and Hooman hired me. Basically. I was to be director of marketing. I hate marketing. They speak a bizarre language and talk about things like “growing the business.” I hate the whole idea, so we agreed that everyone would think I was head of marketing and I would be creative director. The other thing was that I didn’t like having an office. I asked if I could have a phonebooth instead, but Hooman talked me into accepting an office. Over the years it would be used for sex, drugs and listening to rock and roll by people other than me. I preferred to work “in the field” or sit in Hooman’s office smoking and having drinks.
Chris was a genius but he was not very “hands on”. Hooman was really running the show. Hooman would report to Chris that one of our artists had a number one record and, after a long pause, Hooman would remind Chris who the Pixies or the Cranberries were. It was an amazing roster, from the Wailers and Jimmy Cliff to U2 and Willie Nelson, Tom Waits to Marianne Faithfull. Hooman was the perfect Major General; he ran a tight ship with great good humor and he made all the right decisions. Any problems tended to come from the parent company or certain entrenched practices that had to do with Chris tending to employ people for life. As a result, I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do—like make a hip hop video with Texas line dancers or shoot a U2 video in Bollywood—but we did do some great stuff.
I liked the way Hooman operated. I remember one day Hooman’s secretary came into his office and informed him that Melissa Etheridge and her girlfriend had just given birth. “Send flowers,” said Hooman. “How much should I spend?” she asked. “Five hundred dollars,” said Hooman loudly, adding in a lower voice “It’s recoupable.” Meaning Melissa would be paying for it. That might have been a joke, but the way record companies are run, it might not have been. We usually had lunch at Barbetta, the oldest Italian restaurant in New York, and we’d find the better wines were gone, all consumed by our head of radio promotion.
Hooman was always a great dresser, and had impeccable taste in all other areas. I did influence him, however. When I arrived at Island, he tended to wear beautiful flannel shirts and corduroys with beautiful shoes. Having come from Barneys, I still liked wearing suits. One day I met the Cranberries outside Hooman’s office and I introduced myself as the Chairman of Polygram. They believed me. Hooman soon began buying suits and soon he was as hooked on bespoke tailoring as I was.
Hooman soon became family. We believed in the same things, or rather, we didn’t believe in the same things. We started hanging out. He would come out on weekends to visit me in the Hamptons.
I couldn’t figure out how a guy like Hooman had avoided marriage. Then I found out that he actually hadn’t. I won’t go into this, but I was astounded to learn how honorable he was in personal matters. Like, too honorable. But that’s what makes him Hooman. He’s not simply impeccable in visible matters, he’s impeccable to the core—a man of exceedingly rare high standards and flawless integrity.
And I figured he would eventually find the right person. And I was there when he did. One Halloween night we stopped for drinks in a bar near my house in New York. We were in suits. The cute bartender girls were in costume. We had a few drinks. Our bartender was especially nice. After we left, I said, “You know Hooman, that girl was really cute and nice and she really liked you.” He went back for one more drink and the rest is history. One of New York’s most available bachelors became a husband and father. Out went the Porsche 911, in came the Mini.
I should mention that when I met Hooman, he had a stateless passport, as his father had been an Iranian ambassador under the Shah. He was also completely American, except the British part that came from going to public school over there. It was interesting to see him get interested in what was going on in the country of his birth. And it was interesting to watch him come into his own as a businessman, well, a show businessman. He produced two great films before leaving Island: The Cup and James Toback’s Black and White.
I could see that Hooman was getting the bug. The intellectual and writer in him was coming out. It was great to watch. And it was great to have a colleague who could do anything in the world of business elect to get involved in a higher order of work. And make it look fabulous.